Archive for the ‘The Leadership Struggle’ Category

Rehearsals Begin for January and February

Saturday, October 8th, 2011

Honestly, it is hard to overcome inertia, but I’m about to do so.

Honestly, the Chicago Bass Ensemble has been static, motionless, inert for several months. Things kind of decayed at the beginning of this year, and I didn’t do a good job of breaking through the stasis. I did get a lot of music for the group to play, when I was at the International Society of Bassists convention. And I was really pleased to hear from Ken Whitney during the summer to set up a performance at the First Presbyterian Church of Arlington Heights.

Now, I’m finally geared up to get going again. Tomorrow morning, Julian, Anton and I are getting together to go over repertoire for both our January and February performances. I’m excited!

So now I’m going to try something. One of my goals for this blog has been to shine a light onto the process of getting a performing group going. I mean to make regular entries. I haven’t been doing that, but I’m going to try again. For this week, here is my done well/needs improvement list:

Done Well

  • Pulled together a rehearsal (for tomorrow).
  • Made an entry on the Chicago Classical Music site.
  • Wrote this blog entry.
  • Left a message for my friend Wilson Hogan, with whom I am podcasting about Chicago Bass Ensemble.

Needs Improvement/To do

  • Get Wilson and me off our butts and record something for a podcast!
  • Confirm a fourth player for both the January and February events.
  • Get music from Mike Wittgraf for his piece which we’ll premiere in February.
  • Write a follow-up post to this one.

Check back next week to see how I’ve done, especially on that last bullet point! Your encouragement … or harangues … in the comments will inspire me!

Leadership Issues

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

What are some of the issues one faces when trying to be a leader? Some of these ideas or concerns have been bouncing around my head as a result of what I’m trying to do with Chicago Bass Ensemble, others as part of my “day gig” at, where I have been a manager of people, and also have been part of the core team leading a shift to agile product methodology (sorry about the buzzwords).

  • Fear of Stepping Out –  It’s easy to be somewhat anonymous when you’re part of the team. Yeah, being a team player is an important skill. But sometimes being just “on the team” means that you don’t have to put your neck on the line. Or it means that you can slink back when times are a little tough and imagine that the blame for failure is evenly distributed. Or while pretending to shoulder the responsibility equally, you can think to yourself “well I did my part, but you-know-who didn’t.” If you’re going to be a leader, you may have to stand up and take an unpopular stance, and accept or (politely and appropriately) level criticism for failure.
  • Not Knowing Your Place (is it really me they’re following?) – Really, me? What I say publicly matters, gets repeated, gets acted on, makes people angry or worried? That’s such a strange feeling. I don’t–I really don’t–want to sound egotistical here, but some days I feel like that’s what’s happening around me, and I hadn’t expected it. In the case of the Chicago Bass Ensemble, of course it happens: I am the leader. As a bassist, it is unfamiliar and even unexpected to be the one calling the shots.
  • Bogging Down in Administration – Eighth Blackbird tweeted “Amen! ‘@JohnBirmingham: So much of life is admin. And I suck at admin.'” I seconded that (in technical terms, I retweeted it, just as Eighth Blackbird did). The point I want to make is that it is awfully easy, whether you’re good or bad at it, to spend your time doing the admin work. Setting up a schedule, sending e-mails, marking parts, balancing your checkbook all take a lot of time, and they feel good when they’re done because you can see tangible results. But doing those things takes time, much more time than you realize, leaving you without either the time or energy to make leadership decisions.
  • Not Getting Administrative Work Done – This is the counterpoint to bogging down in administration. It’s also fun and rewarding to do leader stuff: dream up the five- or ten-year plan, create the vision board (oh yeah, gotta do that), envision the recording session. But if doing the leader stuff is all you do, and you don’t have a support staff to carry out the detailed planning and doing, nothing’s going to happen. In that case, see my first point and think about who takes the blame for failure to produce anything.
What about you? What do you think are challenges for leaders? Which of these are the most important, or the hardest to overcome? How have you battled them? I’d love to hear your comments.

Leadership is Mundane

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Here’s a topic for “The Leadership Struggle:” Leadership is Mundane.

Part of the struggle of leading is that much of your time is taken up by matters that are uninteresting. That is, you have to resolve problems that are not meaningful to you personally. Or you must address situations that don’t really affect the outcome for your organization, but nonetheless must be addressed. The work you do doesn’t truly help you grow.

True? False? Agree? Disagree?

This post–probably this topic in general–is more about a dialogue in the comments. So both of you who read this, get busy!

The Leadership Struggle

Friday, July 1st, 2011

My  friend Si Alhir (Twitter: SAlhir) tells me I should have a blog post whose only content is the following:

The leadership struggle.

I am going to do him one better by creating a category here in my Chicago Bass Ensemble blog by that name.